Panning cameras: allowed or forbidden?

Homeowners beware: What is allowed?

When installing surveillance cameras, homeowners must ensure that neighbors are not monitored unintentionally. In view of the rapid technological developments, there is often uncertainty about the legal requirements. The Gelnhausen district court (AG Gelnhausen, judgment of 04.03.2024 - 52 C 76/24) has now clarified the conditions under which electronically swiveling cameras are permissible.

Use of cameras in the neighborhood: What does the GDPR say?

The Gelnhausen District Court ruled that surveillance pressure already exists if there is a tense neighborly relationship and the camera can be directed electronically onto the neighbor's property. The decisive factor is that the camera has this function, regardless of whether it is used.

According to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH, judgment of 16.03.2010 - VI ZR 176/09), this is only permitted as an exception if the angle of the camera can only be directed towards the neighboring property with considerable and visible manual effort, but not by means of an electronic control mechanism.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and surveillance cameras

Whether the use of a camera is permitted depends primarily on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A balance must be struck between the data protection interests of the persons filmed and the security interests of the camera users. If unjustified surveillance pressure is generated, data subjects can file a complaint for a violation of their right to informational self-determination pursuant to Art. 2 I in conjunction with Art. 1 GG. Art. 1 GG via §§ 1004 I, 823 I BGB (German Civil Code). A penalty payment of up to € 250,000 can be imposed for non-compliance (Section 890 ZPO).

The decisive factor is that third parties must seriously and objectively fear surveillance by the camera. Use is only permitted if it is objectively certain that no unjustified surveillance is taking place.

Practical recommendations: How to avoid legal problems

To avoid legal problems, it is advisable to have a legal check carried out by a specialist lawyer for IT law before installing cameras. Timely advice can save you stress with neighbors, time and money and give you advice on:

  • Communication with neighbors
  • Selection of suitable camera models
  • Installation instructions
  • Information signs and legal texts

You can also receive better advice on exceptions and special rights, for example in the event of stalking or burglary.

By complying with these recommendations, you protect yourself legally and create a trusting relationship in the neighborhood.

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